Commission faces motion of censure over GM maize plans

The EU Greens group is set to table a motion of censure against the European Commission for its plan to authorise the growing of a genetically modified maize, despite opposition from 19 member states.

Earlier this week, a European Parliament majority — including these 19 states — voted against an application to plant Pioneer-DuPont 1507 maize, developed by DuPont and Dow Chemical. However, following an inconclusive ministerial meeting on Tuesday, the commission indicated that it will approve the GM maize.

The Greens group said the parliament showed “disdain for the democratic process”. A motion of censure, if tabled, would probably be included in the parliament’s plenary session on February 24-27.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the co-president of the Greens group in the parliament, said: “Pushing ahead with the authorisation of this GM maize variety, against the background of clear opposition in the council and the European Parliament, would demonstrate a disdain for the democratic process by the European Commission.

“This is not to mention the consistent and determined public opposition to GMOs in Europe. This is a test of European democracy. If the commission doggedly pursues the authorisation of the GM maize 1507 despite this democratic opposition, we’ll launch a motion of censure in the parliament.”

If the motion of censure goes ahead, it would be a first for the EU. The motion would require at least 77 MEPs before it can be tabled. The Greens bring together 58 MEPs from 15 countries and five regions. It is the fourth largest group in the parliament.

This week’s opposition to the maize by 19 member states was a record rebuttal for the parliament. Those opposed were: France, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Romania, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Those in favour were: Spain, Britain, Finland, Estonia, and Sweden.

Germany, Portugal, Czech Republic, and Belgium all abstained from the vote.

Under EU rules, the vote amounted to a failure by member states to decide on the issue. As a result, this indecision has effectively paved the way for automatic approval by the commission.

Roger Waite, its agriculture spokesperson, said: “There is no choice. The rules are clear. An abstention is equivalent to a vote in favour.”

This maize has been genetically modified to produce its own pesticide — a modification that, according to the European Food Safety Authority, could be harmful to butterflies and moths.

However, there is also strong support for the introduction of the GM maize, with bioscientists arguing that the EU’s stance on GM has left the continent trailing the US, Asia, and many emerging economies.

The two developers of the new maize, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Pioneer, both welcomed the parliament’s stance.

Opponents to the maize are expected to gather support this coming week for the motion of censure against the parliament’s decision. Among the most prominent opponents will be France, where the issue has already seen significant opposition, led by Stéphane Le Foll, the French agriculture minister.


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